When a Coup is the Right Thing to do

By: Craig Chamberlain

For those who have been able to find any news somewhere in the non stop coverage of Michael Jackson’s death, you might have noticed that there was a coup in the Central American country of Honduras. President Manuel Zelaya was rousted out of bed by soldiers and dumped across the border into Costa Rica, and the head of Congress was sworn in as the interim President.

Now, we in the western world have been conditioned to equate coups with the establishment of military junta’s, such as the one that took over Greece in the 1970′s or the group that ruled over Argentina, or the military coup that brought Mengistu and his cadre to power in Ethiopia. In essence: coup= bad.

Nine times out of ten that’s true. Coup’s overthrow democratically elected leaders, establish an autocratic rule that can take decades to get rid of(just look at the military regimes in Burma or Libya), and they leave the country a certified wreck. Most people don’t want to live under the rule of a dictator, someone who has absolute power over you, and someone who gained power without the people having any say in the matter, that’s what it means to be a dictator.

But is there a different type of Coup? A move where the military moves in favor of democracy, liberty, and the constitution of their country? There have been, at times, military coups that have removed regimes far more dictatorial than the regimes they set up, and they left the country in better shape than they found it. This is the exception to the rule, not the norm. But it does happen. Look to Pinochet’s coup in Chile, that overthrew a communist leader who was working slowly but steadily to turn Chile into a Soviet satellite. Suharto’s coup in Indonesia, that replaced the increasingly dangerous rule of Surkarno. Then there was Ataturk’s reign in Turkey where he established a republic governed by secular, not Sharia, law. All of these men were dictators, there word was law. But they all left there country in better shape.

So, what was the coup in Honduras? Well, let’s look to the people who were Mr. Zelaya’s strongest allies. The leaders squawking the loudest for his return to power were: Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and President Obama. The first three left wing dictators, and of course our President a left wing sympathizer. The fact that these men(forget President Obama) want Mr. Zelaya back in power so badly should tell us something. If a left wing dictator is upset that you’re out of power it’s probably because he saw you as a kindred spirit.

Indeed Mr. Zelaya, was a kindred spirit of Hugo Chavez, the strongman of Venezuela. Mr. Zelaya got elected with the help of Chavez, as part of his anti American alliance, and like his mentor Mr. Zelaya was working hard to subvert the democratic institutions of his country. Specifically Mr. Zelaya was attempting to change the constitution to allow him more time in office, as the constitution of Honduras did not allow him to run for a second term. Mr. Zelaya attempted to force a popular referendum to amend the constitution. This vote was illegal as the constitution of Honduras can’t be changed by popular referendum. The attorney general and the courts declared the vote illegal, and Zelaya reacted by ordering his supporters to riot in the streets. He then proceeded to import ballots printed up in Venezuela to go along with the vote anyway.

At this point the military and opposition politicians had no choice but to take action. The military moved in and removed Mr. Zelaya, followed the constitution as to who should replace him, and turn the country back over to civilian rule. Now, this was not the best course of action, but it was the only one left to them. Mr. Zelaya was bound and determined to make himself the dictator of Honduras, fortunately there were still people in the country who weren’t going to let that happen.

President Obama, the man who wouldn’t stand up for Iranian protesting a rigged vote, seems all to eager to reinstate a man that wants to be President for life. But, hey what can one expect from a left win populist?

Strictly speaking, this was not a military coup. The military stepped in and handed power back to the proper authorities until a new election is held next year. While it might not be a popular decision, and it will certainly make Honduras a pariah state for a while(odd that tiny Honduras should be a Pariah, while Washington is all too willing to embrace Tehran) it was the right thing to do. The country is now free of one of Hugo Chavez’s allies. Would that all of Latin America could make that claim.

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